Review of Brackenridge Bed & Breakfast, San Antonio, plus tips for B&B-ing with kids
by Stacy Curtis
If you've never stayed at a bed and breakfast before (or never stayed with kids), there are a few things you should know ahead of time.
First, and most obvious, a bed and breakfast not a hotel. You won't typically find a 40" flatscreen TV, a sparkling pool, or an atmosphere of anonymity. What you will find is an owner who wants to get to know you, share knowledge of their city, and make sure your stay is a wonderful experience. Most B&Bs have owners on-site or nearby.
Brackenridge House of San Antonio
My family was lucky enough to get The Wren's Nest room at Brackenridge House Bed & Breakfast in the King William Historic District in San Antonio. Brackenridge House is actually the oldest B&B in San Antonio; they have been in continuous operation since 1986. Our hosts, Lily and Roland Lopez, bought Brackenridge House in January 2011. Lily has been the manager for many years, so she knows the business well.
My children and I arrived at the residential neighborhood at an unusual hour, so we entered using the door code provided in our confirmation email. An envelope welcomed us from an entry table laden with brochures for every attraction in San Antonio (I picked up one of each to study later). The personalized letter explained which room was ours, provided breakfast details, and (yes!) where to find the pool. We proceeded to explore The Wren's Nest suite and grounds.
I was a bit uneasy walking around what seemed like someone else's large home, especially after discovering the pool was a sparkling rock-waterfall oasis in the neighbor's back yard. Once we met Lily and Roland, though, all uneasiness disappeared. They explained that the former owners lived next door and rented the pool to Brackenridge House.
Being B&B newbies, we wanted to find out why so many people fall in love with bed & breakfasting. Our first opportunity to really get to know the owners was at breakfast itself....and what an experience it was! A full three-course gourmet meal unlike any we'd seen before.
Tips for Staying in a Bed & Breakfast with Kids
After breakfast, I interviewed Lily to find out what tips she had for B&B fans with kids:
Stacy: I can't get over the sumptuous breakfast! Do you cook like that every day?
Lily: Yes, I cook a traditional three-course meal every morning. Some of the recipes are posted on our website. If you stay here for 8 days, you'll never have a repeat breakfast. I have someone coming soon to stay for a month - that will be a challenge! I'll have to break out my cookbooks. Most innkeepers are very willing to personalize the food for you. I have recipes for diabetics, vegans, vegetarian, and even for those with celiac disease.
Stacy: Why are so many people enamored with B&Bs?
Lily: A bed and breakfast is a totally different experience. It's more private, more personal. When you go to a B&B, you basically have a friend in the city. We want everyone to feel very much at home. It's like having a big family. (On a personal note: Lily and I discussed where to park in the city and other tips that only a local would know.) Some people think going to a B&B is like going to a stranger's house. It's not like that at all; it's like going to your favorite relative's house. Once you experience it, you will love it. We have quite a few customers who were nervous at first, but now they've made it an annual tradition to come and stay.
Stacy: What should someone look for when they're searching for the right B&B for them?
Lily: People should definitely look for a B&B with membership in an association so they know what they're getting. We're members of the local, state, and national B&B associations as well as several others such as the Professional Association of Innkeepers International. The Texas Bed & Breakfast Association inspects us each year, so you're assured that the website photos match the property and everything is kept well. We've heard of bad experiences with misleading photos, but those were properties without membership in an association and no inspections. When you're looking online, check out the amenities ahead of time. For instance, we have a pool here but many B&Bs do not.
Stacy: I traveled here with two kids, but found in my research that many B&Bs don't allow children. Can you give me any advice?
Lily: When searching for a B&B you should definitely call to see if they allow children and if they have an age limit. A minimum age of 6 or 8 is typical. In addition, most B&B's have a two-person limit per room. Sometimes we have families of four stay, but they reserve two rooms for that. (Note: The Wren's Nest was an exception and allowed three people, it has a fold-out bed in the kitchenette/spare room. I paid an additional $35 for the extra person. In a hotel, you can sometimes sleep kids on couches or roll out beds - not so in a B&B. Remember, you are paying an individual, not a large corporation, and the extra amount of clean-up, the large breakfast, and additional liability requires the extra charge.)
Stacy: Staying at a B&B is fairly comparable in price to a nice hotel. Still, I like to get a great deal. Are there better times of the year to get a discount?
Lily: Well, in San Antonio, we are full almost year-round. January and part of February is our slowest time because of the weather and there are fewer conventions in town, so we give discounts then. It slows a bit in July and August when many young families with small children travel on vacation. Of course Monday through Thursday will typically net you greater discounts than the weekend.
Stacy: Do you have any last-minute deals for unused rooms? How about other discounts?
Lily: Not many. It's rare to have a room open at the last minute. We do have discounts for long-term stays and we have some regular customers who come here on business with special circumstances who get discounts. For instance, if it is a single person or someone who doesn't have time for breakfast we'll work with them on an appropriate price. You should consider that when you go to a hotel you would have to pay for a full breakfast like we serve, plus pay for parking or valet service. In and around the hotels here, parking can be up to $27 a day and you might have to walk a couple of blocks for that.
Stacy: Lily, I'm so glad we came here. We've had a great time! Can't wait to come back again.
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©2011, Stacy Curtis.
Stacy Curtis is a freelance writer based in Fort Worth, Texas.